Ken Cazan

Resident Stage Director, USC Thornton Opera


  • Program:
    Vocal Arts and Opera
  • Division:
    Classical Performance and Composition
  • Expertise:
    Stage Directing


Ken Cazan has directed over 160 productions of operas, musical theater, and plays in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Most recently, he directed the world premiere of Thomas Morse’s opera FRAU SCHINDLER for the Gärtnerplatz Theatre in Munich for which he also served as librettist along with Morse. Other world premieres include the Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed opera AS ONE for American Opera Projects and the BAM Festival in 2014, and the Lieberman/McClatchy collaboration, Miss Lonelyhearts which was commissioned by the Juilliard School for their 100th anniversary and was a co-production with the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and the USC Thornton School f Music. American premieres include Handel’s Agrippina (Ft. Worth Opera), Mozart’s Mitridate, Re di Ponto (Opera Theatre of St. Louis), and the first American opera house production of Britten’s Gloriana (Central City Opera). He directed La Boehme in collaboration with Leonard Bernstein in Rome, Italy. The semi-staged production was recorded and released internationally on Deutsche Grammaphon and released on video throughout Europe on RAI. His work has also been seen on American PBS, the CBC in Canada, and on major TV channels in various countries throughout Europe. He has directed frequently for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, Santa Fe Opera, the Seattle Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, the Long Beach Opera, and the Central City Opera Company where he will be returning for his 17th summer in 2019 to direct Britten’s Billy Budd. He has received various Outstanding Director and Outstanding/Best Production awards.

Mr. Cazan received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting and Directing from Syracuse University in 1979. Before that he attended Kent State University Stark County Campus from whom he has received the Outstanding Alumnus Award.

Outside of opera, he has directed plays and musicals for various theatre companies across America and in Europe. In Norway, he directed West Side Story for the inauguration of the spectacular, new Kilden Theatre in Kristiansand. In Venice, Italy, he directed a production of the Gershwins’ Lady be Good for the venerated Teatro la Fenice which marked the first time an Italian opera-theatre company had created an original production of an American musical. He is also well known for directing musicals for opera companies, everything from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim. Additionally, Mr. Cazan conceived of and wrote the book and lyrics for a new musical titled Prodigy in collaboration with pop composer Billy Pace. Prodigy is the story of the professional life and death of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the great 1980s African-American fine artist. Combining hip-hop, pop, Latino music, and ballads, Prodigy received two successful staged readings with the Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals.

Ken Cazan is a full Professor, Resident Stage Director, and the Chair of Vocal Arts and Opera at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for whom he has worked since 2004. At USC, he has been awarded both “Excellence in Teaching” and “Excellence in Service” awards. He has taught masterclasses and acting for the Metropolitan Opera and Central City Opera Young Artist Programs, the Chautauqua Opera, and at Indiana University, Ohio State University, Kent State University, Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School, and CalState University Long Beach. He is on the Board of Advisors for the Classical Division of the Orange County High School of the Arts.

In 2017, Mr. Cazan was inducted into the Grove Dictionary of Music. It was the first time in 25 years that the esteemed musical dictionary had been edited. The dictionary cited Ken Cazan as an expert in the works of Benjamin Britten and praised his skill in working with singer-actors on characters and relationships.

Video Interviews with Ken Cazan

How to Enter the World of Opera
Being a Custodian of the Opera Tradition
The Appeal of Opera
Ken Cazan on Hans Werner Henze's "The English Cat"

Professional experience

Honors, Awards & Competitions:

  • Outstanding Director Award, San Francisco Opera Merola Opera Program, 1982
  • Outstanding Alumnus, Kent State University, 2008

Music Festivals:

  • Teatro la Fenice, Venice, Italy
  • Santa Fe Opera
  • Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy
  • Canadian Opera Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Seattle Opera

Academic degrees

  • BFA, Acting/Directing/Dance, Syracuse University, 1979

Other academic experience:

  • Faculty, University of Michigan, 1989-92
  • Acting Teacher, Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program, 1987
  • Master Classes, Ohio State University, University of Nebraska/Omaha, Manhattan School of Music, University of Toronto, CSU Long Beach
  • Guest Stage Director: Juilliard School, Academy of Vocal Arts, Curtis Institute of Music, Indiana University, Manhattan School of Music

Studied with:

  • Arthur Storch, Edward Greer, Phillip Robb, Daniel Krempel